No Apologies for Art

I never apologize for anything I create. Do you?

Products of the creative mind may offend, but my advice: never apologize.

If I’ve created something then it came from somewhere. It came from me. Who can understand what lies inside of us? And if we cannot understand it, we are lucky at least to have a look at it, or a facet of it. Maybe it is the observational scientist in me, but I have to accept the view that’s offered, I have to be happy to see it for what it is, I have to welcome it. Censorship makes us dull.

It happens at times that I create something flat, boring, or too short, or too long.  It is an experiment to create, I don’t know how it will come out finally. To be truthful, at times I create something, a drawing, or poem, or story, that disturbs or even horrifies me the next day. In my case, this is most often the little drawing I make that precedes the story, or a photo I’m not sure why I took. I put some of those away in a safe place at the back of the notebook, don’t scan them, don’t share them immediately until I can work on them and understand them.

For example, I’m not sure yet why in Rome the blackbirds fascinated me, or why I had to capture the pigeon in front of the Arc of Augustus, nor on the beautiful beach in Puerto Rico why a dead tree. But I’m working on it.

Still, honestly I’m delighted when creative thoughts emerge, these colorful bits from deep inside me. I’m not sorry. We even need to be disturbed sometimes, we need to stir the subconscious, we need to uncover, to reveal, to see.

Every rule has exceptions.

Two cases come to mind as possible exceptions for apology, Goethe in 1774 for Sorrows of Young Werther, and Orson Welles reading HG Wells in 1938 from War of the Worlds. In both these cases some readers or listeners despaired or panicked or lost hope. Here, “to entertain” crossed over into “to horrify”. In the case of Werther, people died in copycat suicides mimicking the main character of the story, followed by “Werther Effect” concerns.  Even here, the way I understand it, the listener who panics or the reader who despairs is where the action is controlled, rather than the writer as creator being at fault.

What do you think about the agency when art is deemed offensive?

Is it the artist, the art, or the audience?

Please leave a comment to join the discussion.

13 thoughts on “No Apologies for Art

  1. Like you I never write to offend. It’s up to my readers to discover what’s under the surface and they’ll always manage it if they’re interested enough. Like the other comments here, it’s all in the interpretation. That’s why agencies should be very careful in determining what is offensive. Thought-provoking post.

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for the insights. The interpretation of art or writing is likely filtered through emotional experience for each of us as observers. So it’s very hard to predict whether we offend, art offends, or people take offense.

  2. Art carries a message and is meant to stop and make people think. It’s a mode for ruffling people’s feathers. Some of the material may make some feel uncomfortable. Every artist has an intention, and sometimes that intention is misperceived/misunderstood. At the same time, I do believe that some artists are looking to stir the pot and evoke shock. At the same time, the creative mind should never be censored.

    1. Hi Kristin, Yes, such a great point to share that the creative mind not be censored. That would make it really hard to write. Thanks, and I look forward to reading more of your uncensored new poetry!

  3. I think perhaps it is up to the reader to find out what the art piece is about and then decide whether they want to engage with it. I suppose a problem could arise when the person does not completely understand themselves, and cannot predict what the piece of artwork will illicit from themselves. Yet, that is also the power of art- to allow us to discover things we feel we’ve known all along. In which case the artist should never apologize. They are performing a service long after they have finished composing their art- but it is now a service distinct from their person.

    1. Hi Lillian, It rings so true to me that the reader can close whether to engage or not. When we see trailers that’s always the case for film. And then it’s such an interesting question whether or not each of us even understands what a creative work will illicit from within us.

  4. An artist should never become high on his/her creation. Basically, you are the prosecutor(creator)..bringing the facts (work) to the table(globe)…All of the world is your jury…The verdict lies within their interpretation….As we all now there are times when a good work goes unnoticed just like an innocent person who is put away…C’est la vie!

  5. I think it’s the reader or viewer that has to claim responsibility for his/her reaction. Even if a work is deemed offensive, that may not have been the intent but rather the interpretation. I say that as an artist, but a portrait artist that has never offered up an offensive work.

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